For almost a year, Vice has brought its millennial-focused style of reporting to the stodgy establishment of nightly news. Airing on HBO, Vice News Tonight usually features a mix of mini-documentary feature segments and voiceover narration of video clips with slick graphics. On Monday night, the format changed, and the result was something special.
“Charlottesville: Race and Terror,” a 22-minute documentary on the events of last weekend’s white supremacist march and its deadly aftermath, is an excellent, chilling piece of work. HBO allowed Vice to post the entire episode online, and it has been viewed 28 million times on Facebook and almost four million times on YouTube. Network and cable news have also aired portions of the footage, likely introducing millions to the Vice brand for the first time.
The documentary opens with scenes of torch-wielding white men chanting “Blood and soil,” and “Jews will not replace us,” then follows a chronological timeline through the events of the weekend, including interviews with white supremacists who came to Charlottesville for the march. Lacking a narrator, the weight of carrying the story is shared by correspondent Elle Reeve and the Vice News editing team, who juxtapose scene of violence and vitriolic chants with quieter moments of reflection. In one disturbing scene, a white supremacist tells Reeve, “I’m trying to make myself more capable of violence.”
That Vice would be in the right place at the right time is not coincidental. As Josh Tyrangiel, the executive in charge of Vice News Tonight, told CNN’s Brian Stelter, “The rise of white nationalism is a story that we’ve been covering.” Reeve interviewed Richard Spencer, a leader of the so-called alt right, in December, and she used her connections with those in the movement to gain access to people involved in the planning of the Charlottesville march. The result was an important piece of journalism that captured the horror that white supremacists brought to Virginia.
Below, more on Vice and the coverage of Charlottesville.
- Vice’s “breakout moment”: CNN’s Stelter writes: “When my mom shared Vice’s documentary about Charlottesville on Facebook, that’s when I knew it had really broken through.”
- Reeve’s reflection: The Vice News correspondent spoke last night with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, saying of the white nationalists, “Everyone who was there knew what they were doing….There’s no innocent person wandering up and accidentally getting involved in this.”
- Four attacks on the press: The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documented four journalists being physically assaulted over the weekend in Charlottesville.
- Remember Heather Heyer: The parents of 32-year-old Heyer, killed while protesting the racist march, spoke at a memorial service for their daughter. “They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her,” Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother said.
- Reviewing Vice News Tonight: When it debuted last fall, CJR’s David Uberti gave the show a positive review but wrote that it was mostly “a tasty supplement” to broadcast telecasts. With its coverage of Charlottesville, Vice proved it can be more.
Other notable stories
- Taking a page from the Scaramucci playbook, Steve Bannon called up a reporter to vent on the record. American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner prints the highlights from his conversation with the unrepentant White House adviser.
- The Washington Post’s Karen Attiah’s “If it happened elsewhere” version of the events in Charlottesville provides both media criticism and political perspective.
- Internet companies are usually reluctant to moderate or ban content in any manner that could be cast as censorship. That’s why the decision of Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince to terminate the account of The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, is significant. Prince’s explanation to his team, obtained by Gizmodo, is worth reading.
- The Post’s Margaret Sullivan takes on false equivalencies from both president and press, writing that, for journalists, “The best way to be fair is not to be falsely evenhanded, giving equal weight to unequal sides. It’s to push for the truth, and tell it both accurately and powerfully.”
- CJR’s Karen Ho looks at a study showing that diversity in newsrooms has been bad for decades, and it’s probably not going to get better.
- A spokesman for the New York state court system butt-dialed a New York Post reporter and accidentally admitted to barely showing up for his high-paying job.
- Today’s fun read: Harper’s published excerpts from the jury selection for pharma-bro Martin Shkreli’s trial on securities and wire fraud.
- News from the homefront: Village Voice staff writer and Harper’s contributor Alex Neason will be joining CJR as a senior staff writer next month. We’re thrilled to have her!